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The article is in bad taste. The title even more.

If you don't like Crockford's license you are at liberty to write that code yourself. Please don't call people who contribute a great deal to advancing computing (Free Software or not) names like 'harmful to Free Software'.

Even if there is genuine concern in the license and its usage in Free Software, it should be raised by pointing to the code and the license, not by making a personal attack.

Articles like this are harmful to Free Software because it discourages people from contributing. Not Douglas Crockford's license written in good humour and with nice intentions.




People need to be aware that using childish clauses in licenses can have legal repercussions. This is not about "Free Software" or "Open Source" either, because that same clause can get you in trouble even if it comes in the EULA of a proprietary product.

The article was itself childish, but then again, it's a personal blog, not some kind of official statement.

> it discourages people from contributing

True, but my perspective is different - what discourages people from contributing are ego-driven testosterone-filled spoiled brats. Incidentally that's why we also have so few women contributing.


The contributions from ego-driven testosterone-filled spoiled brats are significant.

Indeed, I would go further and say that the fruits of Open Source are in significant part the result of young men trying to impress and outdo each other in mental contests and show each other who's smarter (aka whose organ is bigger). This kind of competition is driven by testosterone.

And we all benefit as a result.


>> "People need to be aware that using childish clauses in licenses can have legal repercussions."

Please name a case.

Name one single case where this holds true.


I'm not disagreeing with the message of caution. But it could have been said much better.

> True, but my perspective is different - what discourages people from contributing are ego-driven testosterone-filled spoiled brats. Incidentally that's why we also have so few women contributing.

Ego and Testosterone in the same sentence - that has to be bad! But it is a different conversation altogether.


Contrary to popular belief, neither ego nor testosterone are absent from women.


So I guess the projects led by developers that are kind and helpful to a fault, of which there are quite a few in my experience, must have all the women contributers funnelled to them. I haven't seen that that's the case so I'm not so sure about your theory.


> because that same clause can get you in trouble even if it comes in the EULA of a proprietary product.

Could clauses like these get you the author in legal trouble? Or it's just you the incautious users?


Note that the complaint is not about not being able to rewrite the code. It's done by a Debian maintainer of a piece of software that depends in weirdly-licensed code; and there are many of them. While sometimes Debian packages are modified to remove files that are not eligible for redistribution, in this case the maintainers would have to rewrite larger parts to make them DFSG-compatible.

This only leads to more fragmentation and bad relations between Debian and upstream.


I think you're missing the larger picture here. If someone like IBM or Apple, or Google were to accidentally use a license like this (which is otherwise free) they could waste millions defending it in court due to some lawsuit. How would that look for Free Software? Probably even worse! "Google sued for using Free Software" -- Headline on the NY Times.


That's why large corporations have hordes of lawyers to help with such things. There is no such thing as accidentally using code under a certain license and there are procedures in place to handle that.

It's no different with using commercial code that was licensed to you, anyway. You still have to adhere to the licensing terms and if you don't they can sue you.


Of course large corporations have lots of lawyers to protect against this (and of course they hire enough engineers to rewrite the thing to begin with), which means I didn't illustrate my point very well. The point is that there is potential negative impact on free software as a result of a "cute" addendum like this.


Frankly I think the GPL, or even worse, the AGPLv3, have just as much, or even moreso, potential to "harm" free software as you describe. Nobody loses sleep over other people using those licenses as they please though.

I think maybe I'll switch to an AGPLv3 license with a no-evil modification for my future personal projects...


How does AGPLv3 or even the GPLv3 harm free software? It's certainly more permissive than MIT with the "do no evil" clause.

No one is stopping some dude from taking a large chunk of MIT or BSD licensed code modifying it and then closing it off forever. That fork could become the one to use while the pre-forked one dies in a fire because the software is no longer compatible with the new shiny one with feature X. "Oh crap! I'd like to fix this bug that's been plaguing me since I switched over to the closed source one, but now I can't." -- Some sorry dude who used BSD licensed software[0]

Those who say they don't care about this sort of thing are lying to themselves and everyone listening.

There's this stigma around the FSF licenses, which has never made sense to me. The whole point of them is simply "I share with you, please have some common decency and share with me." This seems like common courtesy to me, and only fair. If some corporation really wants to close everything up, well the same logic for avoiding Crockford's license applies, just rewrite it and don't use it. But, he who shares should always win.

[0]: yes, this was a loaded argument.


Permissiveness, or lack of it, isn't relevant at all. How I interpret the complaints with the 'no evil', the issue is the 'gotcha' factor, which arguably is out in full force with the AGPLv3. How many companies have botched handling even the GPLv2? We hear about it all the time.

I sincerely like the GPL and AGPL. I don't think potential confusion is a compelling argument against either, nor do I think it against the "do no evil" clause.


I was prepared to think the same way when I read the headline. But it's pretty hard to separate the personality from the issue in this case. There's nothing stopping Crockford from doing the right thing here except for his personality.




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